Youth sports is all about teaching sportsmanship and competitiveness, getting rough and showing grit. However, middle schooler Kylie Montoya was often seen running around at her soccer games in glam hair and makeup – complete with false eyelashes – prepping for a dance competition that would take place afterwards.
This rushed, back-and-forth routine became a familiar lifestyle for young Montoya who is now a professional dancer for the Los Angeles Clippers Spirit Dance Team.
“I love the feeling of being on stage, I’m definitely a performer at heart,” Montoya said.
She experimented with several extracurricular activities like soccer, softball and swimming at a young age, but it all took a backseat to dance.
Her first routines included hip shakes and hand-holding when she began dancing at the age of two at Mommy and Me classes. Often seen fussing and refusing to follow the rules, she recalls her instructor skipping her while passing out stickers at the end of class.
It’s through dedication that Montoya was able to grow and progress in the dance world. When she was six and began competitive dance, her limits were tested as both the training and the environment became more intense.
“I had to change my whole mindset, going from recreational to competition, it’s totally different,” Montoya said. “You have to dedicate yourself a lot more. You have to have the work ethic, you have to want to be there.”
The demanding lifestyle was not easy for Montoya as she struggled to juggle school and dance. She often found herself falling asleep on the kitchen table while doing homework and waking up early, but she is grateful for the stress because it led her to where she is today.
As high school approached, this work ethic helped her earn a spot on the varsity song team for four years, and the captain position for two years.
Her team captain duties included calling the shots like what the next move was going to be and what the team needed to improve. During her junior year, Montoya helped bring a national championship title to Diamond Bar High School.
The following year, she spontaneously decided to audition for Cal State Fullerton’s dance team when her friend asked her to accompany her.
She recalls the rigorous process being a lot more serious than what she was used to. This was the first audition where she saw girls showing up in full glam and two-piece costumes. Montoya made it through three cuts before ultimately making the team.
Adjusting to both a higher caliber of dance and a full-time college workload, her freshman year of college was the hardest year she ever experienced. Although she had a lot on her plate, she helped bring CSUF more national titles and returned every year as she wasn’t ready to give up dance yet.
“This was my last chance to dance because, realistically, a lot of dancers don’t actually dance past high school, that’s usually the ending point for competing,” Montoya said. “I was getting to that point where I was like ‘Wow, I have to come back next year. If I don’t, I’m going to regret this.’”
However, this was not the end. Eventually, she signed with a talent agency dedicated to the entertainment industry in Los Angeles where she attended auditions in hopes of getting hired as a professional dancer.
While some auditions include hundreds of girls fighting for a handful of spots, she has driven out to downtown LA to be rejected without even having the opportunity to dance. Often implementing a type cast, it is not uncommon that they divide you according to features like hair color and body type, as some gigs search for a specific image.
Constantly being thrown into a competitive environment, Montoya learned to take criticism well and maintain a positive attitude.
“With the talent agency, when I first joined, they were like ‘Congratulations, you just chose a career where it’s 99.9 percent rejection,’” Montoya said. “You kind of get used to it, you don’t take it personally.”
Montoya’s fortitude, however, is what has helped her maintain success.
Currently working as a dancer on the LA Clippers Spirit Dance Team, she’s given the opportunity to call herself a working professional with consistent work until she finds her big break in the industry.
Montoya hopes to tour with an artist in the future as a background dancer, to allow her the opportunity to use her passion to travel the world.
“Looks like I’m just not done dancing yet,” Montoya said.